Monthly Archives: February 2015

Week 7’s portrait sketches

I made a bit of a course correction this week i my sketchbook. I am getting more confidant with the shape of heads I draw thanks to my skull studies, but I have still been having some issues with aligning features of faces (especially when the face is at an angle or from imagination). Thus I took a step away from my tonal studies and back to linework and symbols.

This wasn’t as an exercise in developing my rendering skills, but as a way of improving my perception of faces. I was not so much focused on creating entirely photo-realistic sketches here, but instead making sure the symbols have the correct positioning on the face.

scan 1 scan 4

I had been developing a new technique here which is quite minimal and allows for a bit of freedom in creating the face. What I usually do is use a circle as a base, sketch the shape of the whole head on top of that, then fill in the features. But what I found with this was that I was then restricted with the bounds of the head, and one slight error in placement could effect the whole face drastically.

This time I instead I would draw the base circle, then a cross for the representing the level of the eyes and the vertical middle of the face. From here I began filling in the features of the face, and then drew the head around that. I found this much easier and less restrictive, although it is easier to stretch the face by accident.

I plan to combine this with my tonal style from now on.

scan 3 scan 2

I also did some quick tonal sketches as usual, as well as trying a more precise technique (I didn’t like it).


Change to Brief

So I want to make some slight change to my brief. I have discussed it with Ryan and he has given me the go ahead.

The first change being made is that I am removing the military uniform theme from the portraits. I had originally included this because I felt that the project needed something to tie all the portraits together, but upon reflection I do not think this necessary anymore. I had written the brief thinking about things like character design rather than portraiture, but what this project really is is a personal improvement project more than anything else and so I think I can get away with just creating portraits rather than a collecting and unified body of works.

Secondly, I have changed the deliverables to better suit the project. Initially I was to submit a line-work portrait, a monochrome portrait, and an expressionistic portrait. Again, when writing this I was thinking too much about fields such as character design and the sheets it produces. I realise now that this project is about improving my rendering skills and how I use colour. Thus I feel that line-work is not really as important anymore and I have changed it to a coloured portrait (not expressionistic, just realistic colours). This way, all three of my submissions will display my improvements with colour and rendering.

So to reiterate, I will be submitting: a monochrome portrait; a coloured portrait; and an expressionistic portrait.

I feel I should also mention that this project will be a lot more practice based than researched based. I will be looking for inspiration (when it comes to the expressionistic part especially) but for the most part I think I will better learn from this project by continually practicing and churning out work.

Photostudy 6

Gerda 7

Another photostudy complete! And I am more than a little pleased with this one. It took a little longer than the last but I think I have caught the likeness a great deal better.

I did a two things differently with this one. First off I increased the number of squares in the reference grid, which gave me more reference points and made it easier to block in the tones. It also increased my confidence such that after the initial shading was all complete I was confident enough to remove the grid, only using it again a few times to double check I was not deviating.

Secondly I used some new brushes which I feel work much better. I still used some of my blocky rectangle brushes to get the flat initial colours down, as well as in the rough shading of the background. But then I used a new brush with was similar to the streaky brushed I used in the previous painting, but much softer and so it looked less spiky/scratchy.

I chose this picture because of its visual complexity. Although much of the head is covered by the arm the lighting is quite complicated with 2 light sources of different colour. The face is lit by the warm light of candles whist the back is lit by the cold light of a tv. Thus the skin on the hand is different from the skin on the face, and the fringe hair different from the hair on the back of the head.

Gerda comp 1I almost got it right on my initial pass shown above, but I unfortunately made it too bright all over, too yellow at the front, and too grey at the back. It looks relatively fine on its own, but when compared to the reference image you can see a world of difference.

Gerda comp 2I am beginning to suspect that it might not be an idea to have the reference image on a saperate device/screen from the one I am painting on. I didn’t notice this strong orange in the original image until I compared them on the same screen, and when I compared them separately again the orange wasn’t quite as strong. Luckily I was again able to remedy the situation with some adjustment and colour layers.

In future I plan to have both images on the same screen. It will be a bit cluttered, but it should help with colour.

Again a WIP can be found on my Behance page:



Week 6’s Portrait Sketches

scan 1 scan 2


Week 6’s sketchbook consists of mostly skulls, and also some quick studies. I know I said I would put them on hold but I was in the mood for them so…

The skull studies are certainly helping. I keep having to remind myself that the skull is almost as deep as it is tall and that the chin curves back a bit towards the bottom, but I am reminding myself less and less which is a good thing. I’ve also just been doodling skulls absent mindedly in other sketch/notebooks with a deal of success, a few more weeks should hammer the proportions into me.

The timed studies were met mostly with success. Hair is still and issue that needs revolved. I will be spending next week doing longer studies focused more on hair , specifically the hair line and volume (if not the flow of strands themselves). Thus expect the faces next week to be a bit basic.

Photostudy 5

Julia 6

Now in Technicolor! I spent much longer than I intended on this and it slowed production down a lot. I intend to alter my schedule to include only 1 (maybe 2) coloured portraits a week.

Julia 1

There are a couple of issues with the portrait. First and foremost is the shape of the head, which is elongated and much pointer than the subject. I used a grid with much larger squared for this piece and I feel this effected me a bit. I shouldn’t use the grid as such a crutch but it is certainly a useful learning tool, and I need to pace myself with it accordingly.

I am happy with the colouring in this piece. Its not spot on but it does fit with the piece and breaths life into the face. The portrait was actually quite desaturated for a long time, but after leaving it and coming back I noticed this, and was able to fix things quite quickly using a colour layer above everything.

One thing I am not sure about is the brush work. I usually quite like rough brush strokes, and they do work well in black & white, but here has made the skin look a bit unhealthy. I have several options here: I can work on improving the smoothness of my brushwork and filtering out the obvious strokes; or I can work towards incorporating into a style; or I can combine the previous two options and reduce the definition of the strokes but keep them present in the painting. I think I will go with this final option and work on creating/finding/implementing some softer brushes. Stay tuned for more on that.

A WIP of this piece can be found on my Behance:

Week 5’s Portrait Sketches

A bit late with this sketchbook dump but here it is!

scan 1

I continued looking into different expressions this week, although not as much as I would have hoped for. I feel I have improved greatly in understanding the stucture of the face and how it contorts, but there at still some issues to address. At the forefront is the issue I previously mentioned about the skull under the face, and how I often squash or stretch it which in turn squashes/stretches the face.scan 2I also spent some time testing my memory this week. This involved sketching people with little more that a few glaces for reference, and trying to remember what I have learned about the structure of the face when determining how shadows would fall. I also had a few attempts at creating faces from my imagination, to varying degrees of success. I think for the next few weeks I will put this on the backburner and focus on studying expressions and the skull, but I will pick it up again.

Also, have some doodles from the class debate:

scan 3


Further Colour Inspiration

So I looked a bit more into inspirations for colour and texture. Still looking at nature, this time I turned my attention to sunlit clouds and opals.

Clouds Opals

I am not so sure about the clouds, the textures are a bit too soft and the colours pastely. I am very fond of the Opals though, especially the Dragon’s Breath Opals and Black Opals. The strong saturation and contrasting hues and tones are visually striking and dynamic. I will be continuing to look at these along with the Nebulae.

Chopping Off the Skull

I have been reading a book given to me called ‘Drawing with the Right Side of the Brain‘, by Betty Edwards. It has been very useful in teaching me ways of removing the idea of the symbol from my drawing and instead drawing the shapes and shades present.

It has also highlighted a problem I have been having, the source of which I have been struggling to pinpoint. The issue is that I can often render a face with good proportions, but then struggle to frame it upon a well proportioned head. The book has shown me where I am going wrong, I am cutting off the skull.


I am failing to add the correct amount of volume to the head, often not allowing for the head to go far back enough, which in turn squashes the top of the head to match. It is the hair that often tips me off balance with this, as it either has a lack of of distinction or an over-abundance of it, and thus I get lost within its form.

So how can I can combat this? Well as with all other issues there is no magic solution, I just have to practice practice practice. How I will be practicing can be defined however. As I said the hair often throws me off a bit, so I will be removing it, all of it. I am going to go down to the core and practice drawing skulls until I fully understand their proportions.

skulls with ref

Unlike my other studies which focus on the face this one will actually be more symbol oriented. I’m am not interested in the lighting and tones present, I’m looking at the proportions and shape. I will be continuing my life/live drawing studies alongside this and trying to learn as I go.

An inspiration

So I may be getting ahead of myself here but I had an inspiration for later in the project, for when I truly begin experimenting with Expressionism, colour, and shapes. I had been worrying a lot about how I would study the techniques and ideas behind it, and then replicate it my own work. It’s easy enough to see how a finished piece looks, but it is much harder to then apply that look.

And then, browsing the internet as I am want to do, inspiration struck: SPACE (the final frontier). Nebulae are full of spectacular colours, shapes, and ideas. I believe using them as inspiration will be key to developing a style into my more advanced works later on.Moodboard 1 Moodboard 2 Moodboard 3For the moment I will continue to focus on improving my understandings of anatomy and more realistic colours, but I will be studying the form and colour present within nebulae on the side in preparation. I will also be looking into brushes inspired by the form and textures found in nebulae.


Colour Studies

Continuing my exploration of colour and tone, I have discovered that a key area in which I struggle is reading colour on a subject and matching it. Thus I have been exploring a variety of exercises in order to try and improve this. The first of which involved me trying to pick the colours for myself, then using the colour picker to get the actual colour, and comparing the two.

Julia 1 Louise 1 Tone 1

As the results show I don’t seem to have difficulty with getting the values right, the brightness is usually matched well. Hue (which I referred to as Tone in the images by mistake) also can be close to the original, or at least within the same range and so not too noticeable a change.

Saturation, however, seems to be my greatest downfall. More often than not it seems I go in the opposite direction, pulling colour and life out of the painting by using saturation levels which are too low. I tried to rectify this in the last study, picking what I though was the right colour and then adding more saturation. I added too much saturation and made the colours pop too much. This is error can have its advantages in adding a stylised look to a painting, but it should not be aimed for yet.

I plan to do more of these studies to see if I can improve on my shortcomings over time, and then hopefully start experimenting with altering the colours in an imaginative fashion.